By Annie Hauser for Everyday Health
Finding ways to slow the growth of the amyloid peptide, or plaque, in Alzheimer's patients' brains is one of the key challenges facing Alzheimer's research.
Now scientists at the University of Michigan say they might have found a new way to stop plaque growth -- and slow the progress of the disease -- using a specific molecule in green tea.
Their laboratory results, which are extremely preliminary, are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
The green tea molecule epigallocatechin-3-gallate, also known as EGCG, prevented formation of Alzheimer's-causing proteins and broke down existing protein structures in a lab setting, the researchers report. The next step is to test the molecule's ability to block plaque formation in fruit flies, a commonly used animal model.
This development in the fight against Alzheimer's came the same day a new report pinpointed Alzheimer's disease as the fastest-growing health threat in the United States. From 1990 to 2010, the number of Americans who died from Alzheimer's disease jumped 500 percent, researchers from the University of Washington say. Last month, a new study project projected the U.S. Alzheimer's population to triple by 2050, growing from 4.7. million in 2010 to 13.8 million by mid-century.
Although there have been new treatments developed for Alzheimer's in recent years, no cure is in sight. There are several new Alzheimer's drugs in clinical trials that show promise in stopping the formation of Alzheimer's plaque. But even if the current wave of trials succeed, the drugs won't be patient ready for at least three to five years, William H. Thies, M.D., chief medical officer of the Alzheimer's Association, told the Associated Press in December.
In light of this, some medical experts who work closely with the aging population say it's essential to encourage preventive care. Zachary Palace, M.D., a geriatrician and director of the Hebrew Home, a nursing home in Riverdale, N.Y., told Everyday Health in February that he observes that residents who work to keep their brains sharp and stay busy by doing activities such as playing crossword puzzles, socializing and staying physically active, tend to fare better and are less likely to develop dementia. "I think we need more emphasis on what we do know," Dr. Palace says.
As for the new research, lead author Mi Hee Lim, Ph.D., notes in the study the long-established power of EGCG and other flavonoids in green tea for fighting brain-damaging free radicals and preventing memory loss. According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharacology, there is significant evidence that free radicals play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease, and that the polyphenols in green tea can help fight these free radicals.
To date, EGCG has also been found to:
- Lower cholesterol
- Improve bone health and prevent osteoporosis
- Kill mouth bacteria and improve oral health
- Prevent some cancers
- Protect against type 2 diabetes
- Help manage weight and boost metabolism
"Green Tea Could Block Alzheimer's Disease Plaque, Researchers Find" originally appeared on Everyday Health.